Taking the next step in its steadfast crackdown on crypto, China has removed the accounts of 80 popular influencers from social media app Weibo, with each of them having more than eight million followers on the Beijing-based platform.
As per the statement issued by Weibo Finance, all of these accounts promoted crypto. In doing so, they breached eight regulations in China covering areas such as marketing, internet safety, telecommunications, trade and finance.
The move is a part of Weibo’s larger cleansing of misinformation from the platform. It claims to have dealt with more than 140,000 accounts involved in spreading false or harmful information.
Weibo has now vowed to continuously regulate the site in accordance with China’s regulatory laws. It seeks to probe into the “illegal virtual currency trading information” as per the complaints filed by users on the site.
The move follows the nationwide crackdown on crypto which was announced in the country in September 2021. Since then, there has been a blanket ban on all crypto transactions and mining in China. The move saw 10 Beijing-based regulators, including the central bank, financial, securities and foreign exchange regulators, vowing to work together to root out “illegal” crypto activity. Weibo also ended up banning the accounts of major figures in the digital-asset industry like Binance co-founder Yi He and famous crypto entrepreneur Justin Sun back then.
Last year, the month of August saw the country tackling crypto speculation. This was when the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) ordered the removal of 12,000 crypto-related accounts on websites including Weibo and search engine Baidu, and 51,000 social media posts promoting virtual assets.
Interestingly, despite the country’s steadfast clampdown on activities related to virtual assets, the court was noted arguing that cryptocurrency is legally protected as property in China except when the virtual asset is used to commit crimes or was acquired through a crime. This was observed in an opinion piece published by a court in the southeastern city of Xiamen in People’s Court Daily, a newspaper run by the Supreme People’s Court.
On the flip side, one of the country’s largest miners of the open-source, public cryptocurrency Filecoin was brought to court recently. Prosecutors charged its four executives with crimes including organising and leading a pyramid scheme which involved more than 600 million yuan (around $82m).
Last month, a local court sentenced a former senior provincial official to life imprisonment in China. Xiao Yi, who was sacked in 2021 for supporting cryptocurrency mining, was accused of accepting bribes and hiding crypto mining that used a tenth of Fuzhou city’s electricity. A Chinese man, identified as Mr. Chen, was also jailed by the Fuzhou Mawei People’s Procuratorate for purchasing 94,988 Chinese Yuan worth of Tether ($USDT) for an acquaintance.
In July, Chinese police arrested 21 members of a major Tether money laundering ring. They were charged for processing 380 million yuan ($55m) in $USDT across four provinces. As per reports, the group purchased $USDT at a low price and sold it for profit through WeChat groups, helping criminals to launder their illegal funds.
However, despite the Chinese government’s intermittent effort to make digital asset businesses difficult in the country, its effectiveness remains questionable. Many crypto companies still operate from underground as activities related to virtual assets continue to exist in China, with some operating in a legal grey area.